“I told you about this, right?” he asks, “About how I don’t breathe?”
He said it casually as we stood together washing and cooking in the kitchen.
“No,” I said, with a rueful smile, “you didn’t tell me you stopped breathing.”
But then I added, with seriousness, “I know.”
* * *
“I can’t feel my face,” I’d gasped on the way to the hospital, “it’s all numb and tingly.”
Our van flew North along the highway and my husband, driving as fast and carefully as he could, kept glancing over to where I sat in the passenger seat, encouraging me to breathe through wave after wave of contractions.
We hadn’t practiced breathing this time around, hadn’t practiced anything really. My previous labor lasted a few brief hours and aside from panting to keep from pushing as my friend sped us across town, there hadn’t been time for breathing.
This time, though, we were driving to the big city hospital with the level one NICU to deliver twins, one of whom was breech, and we were hoping to get there in time. Recalling a breathing pattern from a lamaze class years ago, my husband coached me over the miles, though he told me later he was making himself dizzy in the process.
I was nearing panic as we pulled off the exit ramp into the downtown streets that were mercifully empty. We parked in the emergency entrance and an angel with a walkie-talkie found a wheel-chair and whisked us away in the freight elevator, directly into the maternity unit.
As soon as we were assigned a nurse, we explained my tingling face and hands.
“That’s because you’re not breathing right,” she replied.
Before signing off of her shift for the evening, she educated us both in a pattern of “ha”s and “hoos” that would carry us through the rest of labor and delivery. She spent a total of fifteen minutes with us, but she turned the tide of delivery by helping me figure out how to breathe.
* * *
We’re trying to learn to breathe again, my husband and I, here in this season of Advent; here in the waiting and in-between, when each breath matters more than we can tell. Caught in the middle between two houses for five months
now, we’ve both been holding our breath out of habit as we wait through wave after wave of hope and discouragement.
Lying in bed at night, side by side, we take deep breaths and the blankets rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
Watching the children gathered on the carpet, still and expectant for one brief pause as they wait for an Advent treat, we draw the moment in, through eyes and ears and nostrils, before exhaling into the chaos of wrappers and chocolate that ensues.
We are learning to breathe as though each breath is a doorway, an invitation and each breath deeply drawn, holds within it the foretaste of that for which we wait.
This post is linked with Playdates With God.